Immigration status and eligibility for public funds

Immigration status and eligibility for public funds

Under UK immigration laws, access to certain public services is dependent on a person’s immigration status. This chapter provides a summary of common immigration status types and outlines how these will typically impact on a person’s ability to claim public funds, specifically: social security benefits, homelessness assistance and a local authority allocation of social housing. 

Later chapters of the guidance set out ways in which a local authority can effectively establish a person’s immigration status and what other services a person may be able to access if they are faced with homelessness, including support from social services. 

Key points

  • Local authority officers working in frontline services need to be able to understand how a person’s immigration status affects their entitlement to benefits and other services, in order to ensure that people receive all of the services they are entitled to, establish correct referral routes, and take any necessary steps to alleviate destitution.
  • People who have ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) will not be able to access most social security benefits, homelessness assistance and a local authority allocation of social housing, but in some cases may be able to receive accommodation and financial support from social services. 
  • Even when a person’s immigration status does not prevent them from accessing social security benefits, they may experience problems obtaining these, for example, because they do not meet other eligibility criteria linked to their residency in the UK, they cannot evidence the length of their residence in the UK, or because their entitlements are misunderstood. 
  • In most cases, establishing a pathway out of destitution will involve accessing specialist immigration advice. It is a criminal offence to provide immigration advice that is specific to a person’s matter unless the adviser is a member of the appropriate regulatory bodies for solicitors and barristers, or is an immigration adviser regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). Local authorities must therefore ensure that staff do not provide immigration advice to individuals unless they are accredited to do so with the OISC, and should consider establishing lists of local regulated immigration advice services to signpost people to.